Pregnancy and the anticipation of a new life is almost always a time of joyful celebration for the parents-to-be. However, when you throw grieving into the mix, the stress and anxiety of it can become overwhelming for some people.
The impact of loss on an expectant mother and her unborn child is yet to be fully understood by medical science. But, for generations, mothers, in-laws, and midwives have known that increased emotional states of distress, even those related to grief, have the potential to negatively affect the fetus.
Knowing how to help a grieving spouse face sorrow during pregnancy is essential for helping them through their time of despair. For every type of grief, there’s a story of love, heartbreak, or loss behind it. If your partner is grieving while pregnant, you can do a few things to support them and help them get through this challenging time.
1. Be there for them
Everyone is different in the way they deal with stress. Your partner may be trying to cope with the effects of their grief while also worrying about how it’ll impact their pregnancy. This type of agonizing can be typical and shouldn’t cause either of you to panic for the sake of the baby’s wellbeing.
You’ll need to tailor your support depending on the type of loss your partner has suffered. Ask them to guide you in what you can do specifically to lessen some of their burden. Sometimes merely being emotionally attuned to how they’re feeling is enough to make them feel loved and supported.
2. Be present and available
If your partner is concerned that their stress is affecting the unborn baby, they may be worrying about it more than necessary. Take the time to hear your partner’s concerns and what they fear most about how their mental health may be affecting their pregnancy. Reassure them that they don’t have to cope with stressful situations on their own especially while pregnant.
Try and be present and available to them in ways that let them know you love and care for them. Recognize what’s going on in your partner’s life and how their grief is impacting them. Focus on ways that you can help them cope with their grief to alleviate some of their concerns.
3. Suggest a medical visit
Ask your partner if they’d feel better by seeing their obstetrician or other medical care providers to discuss any of their fears or anxiety. Added stress can potentially have a detrimental effect on both your partner and the unborn child. During mourning while pregnant, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and unable to deal with the added strain of grief and loss.
Your partner may feel better by talking to a medical professional. They can obtain tips and advice on moving forward with a healthy pregnancy while grieving. You may offer to come along with them to their appointment for added support.
Know that your partner may not be fully onboard with discussing certain grief-related issues with their doctor. They may fear the mislabeling of their condition or being prescribed medication while pregnant. Keep an open mind when discussing these sensitive issues with them.
4. Make your home a sanctuary
Stress can trigger specific pregnancy symptoms that can make it seem as if something’s off with the pregnancy. These feelings may affect your partner’s anxiety over how their pregnancy is being affected by these external forces. Find ways to make your home a sanctuary of peace and tranquility for them so they calm their anxieties. Some suggestions are:
- Maintaining a clean and organized home free of unnecessary clutter
- Adding air fresheners or scented candles for an extra cozy and welcoming feel
- Playing soft music in the background or keeping the TV volume to a minimum
- Avoiding small disagreements and arguments
- Encouraging open communication
5. Set up a relaxing bath
If there are no medical reasons against it, set up an opportunity for your partner to enjoy a nice and relaxing tub full of silky warm water. You can help make this time even more special for them by arranging some bath oils and other luxurious self-care items within easy reach, such as a loofah sponge, candles, and soft music.
The effects of maternal stress on a fetus are not fully known. However, ensuring that your partner has opportunities for relaxation will help them cope with the additional emotional strain caused by grief.
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6. Encourage journaling
Journaling is an excellent way to get your feelings and emotions out on paper. Your partner may find the process of writing down how they’re feeling soothing and healing. You can encourage them to set some time apart to focus on their thoughts and emotions by giving them a beautifully bound journal as a gift and giving them the needed time alone for reflection.
Another more modern way of journaling includes online blogging. Your partner may find comfort in finding and connecting with other like-minded individuals who are also grieving while pregnant.
7. Talk to the baby
With your partner’s permission, take time each day to talk to the baby to offer comfort and support to both mom and baby. Consider telling the baby stories of the person your partner has recently lost, and sharing with them all the ways that person made an impact on your lives. You’ll not only be creating a bond with the baby, but also helping ease some of your partner’s pain.
Sharing stories and talking about loss is a healthy way for you and your partner to deal with their pain and suffering. As the pregnancy progresses, you may notice the baby responding to the sound of your voice as they become familiar with its sounds and vibrations.
8. Go on walks with your partner
Taking walks with your partner gives you both an outlet to physically relieve stress. You may have noticed tensions building between the two of you as a result of your partner’s grieving and the way you’ve responded to it. Suggest to your partner that you carve out some time to reconnect and strengthen your bond. Encourage each other to outwardly express your emotions in a safe and nurturing environment.
Give them the reassurance that you’re there to support them. Try and understand the depths of their sadness while keeping in mind that you’re each coping with loss in different ways. Grief cannot be measured nor compared. How you handle things may be completely different and apart from how your partner processes their grief.
9. Give them space
Allow your partner the time and space to be alone with their grief. Time alone will help your partner process how they’re feeling without feeling self-conscious or judged in any way. Be mindful not to pressure them into focusing solely on the health of the baby instead of on their grief and loss. This may create hurt feelings and resentments later on.
Take a step back to allow your partner the freedom to explore their feelings without judgment. In doing so, remind them that you’re there to support them and to help see them through this very painful time in their life. They may not remember exactly what you said later down the road, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.
10. Honor their loss
Give your partner permission to relish in the joys of motherhood and all that comes with expecting a new baby in your life. Grief can turn an otherwise happy and joyful occasion into one of nagging guilt and shame. Many expectant mothers who are grieving may also feel guilty for expressing happiness in a time of sorrow.
Talk to your partner about ways that you can both honor their loss while still maintaining hope for the future. You can find ways of balancing negative and positive emotions during pregnancy. You don’t need to focus on one or the other. It’s okay to feel happiness while you’re sad.
11. Attend couples counseling
Understand the stages of grief and where your partner is in their journey. Grief and marriage breakdown are two mutually exclusive things. One does not necessarily have to lead to the other. It may benefit you to attend couples counseling to explore your partner’s grief and how it’s impacting your relationship now and in the future.
Couples who attend counseling together may grow closer during times of sorrow and despair. With counseling, you’ll both learn the needed tools to maintain or improve on your relationship as your partner works through their grief. This type of counseling also provides a safe environment to talk about other areas needing improvement in the relationship outside of grief.
12. Talk to a therapist or counselor
Online therapy or counseling can benefit both you and your partner separately from couples counseling. A grief counselor or therapist has the experience needed to help you in your separate journeys toward healing from grief or grief-related issues.
When you make the conscious decision to focus on your mental health, you’re not only committing to your own psychological and emotional well-being, but to helping your partner successfully manage their grief through pregnancy.
Grieving During a Pregnancy
When offering support to your partner who’s grieving while pregnant, remind them that it’s okay to embrace their grief. Coping with bereavement during pregnancy doesn’t mean that they can’t or shouldn’t allow themselves to have feelings or show emotion.
They can safely handle grief while pregnant without it causing issues for the unborn baby later on in life. Joy and despair can exist simultaneously in healthy ways.